Council proposes property tax increase
As 2011 budget talks continued Monday night at the Edwardsville City Council meeting, so did discussion about whether to fund a new assistant chief position for the Fire and Police departments.
Council members continued to go back and forth with City Administrator Michael Webb about the idea of funding the position by taking money out of the general fund cash balance. Some council members argued the city had worked hard the past couple of years to build up the fund from a negative balance. Webb argued that if money were taken out to fund the position, the city would still be left with a positive cash balance of $279,788.
“I’m not saying I like it,” Webb said about spending part of the cash reserve. “I’m saying we don’t have a lot of options if we’re going to fund the operations. If you want to increase the mill to offset the loss of revenue in the general fund, we can do it that way. But I was trying to keep the mill levy from increasing. Each one impacts the other. In the past, it was not an option to spend down the reserve because we didn’t have any, but that’s part of the reason to have a reserve.”
As the budget work session wore on Monday night prior to the regular council meeting, the council decided it would indeed move forward by passing the maximum amount the budget could be, allowing for the required publication of a public hearing notice.
The council approved, 5-0, to set the maximum amount of the 2011 budget at $5,474,418, which is equal to a 2-mill increase to the levy. Council members set one mill going to the general fund and one mill going to the debt service fund.
One mill equals $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in assessed valuation.
Webb’s original proposed budget only called for a 1-mill increase to go to the debt service fund. The idea to increase the levy by another mill for the general fund was suggested by council member Chuck Adams.
The council has not formally accepted the specifics of the budget. As budget talks continue at the Aug. 9 meeting, the council is allowed to move money around to different items and can lower the mill levy if desired. The council vote on Monday just says that the 2011 budget is not allowed to exceed the $5,474,418 limit.
Council members seemed pleased with this decision, especially after hearing from Webb regarding how this increase would affect homeowners. Webb said according to Wyandotte County, the average homeowner’s valuation went down 4.65 percent, which would mean lower property taxes. He said a 2-mill increase from the city would actually mean no tax raise to the residents, but rather their property taxes would stay flat, not taking into account any decisions regarding property taxes from the county.
With the maximum budget set, council members will now be able to get into more specifics about what money should be allocated to what service.
Webb said the assistant chief position would replace the fire chief position, which became vacant last year with the retirement of Cliff Lane. Webb said the fire chief position cost the city $113,000 with salary and benefits as opposed to the $98,000 estimated for salary and benefits for the new assistant chief position.
Other aspects of Webb’s proposed budget include two new firefighter/paramedics in the fire department, which are being funded 85 percent by a grant; the city’s ambulance contract with Kansas City, Kan., going up to $75,000; new equipment, such as two police patrol vehicles, six portable radios, replacement beds and ice machine in the fire department; and two tasers for the police department.
The 2011 proposed budget also calls for no salary increase for non-union and fire department positions. A 6.5 percent increase is called for in the police department as pre-determined by a union contract.
When discussing the mill levy increase, council member Adams said the 1 mill going toward the general fund would give the council the option of considering small pay raises for all city employees.
To that, city administrator said he would not accept a pay raise for his own salary this year, but the council could discuss raises for other employees.
A public hearing regarding the budget will be Aug. 9.
In other business, the Council:
• Approved, 5-0, to donate $500 to Bonner Springs High School to be used for building a new weight room for student athletes. The $500 pledge will only be made, the council decided, if the project is started by Dec. 31, 2010.
• Continued its discussion regarding a possible half-cent sales tax increase election. The city had a similar election in 2009, which failed, with the increased amount going toward general purpose expenses. The idea to again try to increase the sales tax came up at the previous city council meeting when council members questioned if setting the money assigned for public safety would be viewed more favorably.
After further discussion, council members came to the consensus that another sales tax election was not a good idea.
“I personally think the public spoke not too many months ago,” council member Chuck Adams said. “The public said they didn’t want it just a few months ago. Nothing has really changed (with the economy). If anything, it has gotten worse. I would say push this aside and move on.”
“People aren’t very receptive to it. If the state wouldn’t have just done it, it would’ve been ok,” added council member Mark Bishop, bringing up the fact that a statewide one cent sales tax increase had just been passed.
• Approved, 5-0, changes to the city’s zoning ordinance for accessory buildings in the Agricultural/Residential District and the Rural Residential District. The change adjusts the side yard setbacks for accessory buildings to 10 percent of the front lot width, with a minimum of 10 feet.
• Heard an announcement from Mayor John “Tiny” McTaggart regarding an upcoming fundraiser for Randy Freeman, son of Edwardsville City Clerk Phyllis Freeman. Randy Freeman is in need of a kidney transplant and found a volunteer donor, Terry Long.
The Freeman family is hoping to raise money to help Long with bills during the two months he will be forced to take off from work following the surgery.
The benefit event, which will include a silent auction and live music, will be from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, at Speedway Bar and Grill, 11635 Kaw Drive.
• Approved, 5-0, minutes from the July 12 meeting.
• Approved, 5-0, payment of bills totaling $87,171.59.